Balabhadra Majhi, BJP Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat candidate, is all intensity. In the Maoist-affected Malkangiri district, he starts early and ends up covering over 300 km a day. An engineering graduate from the prestigious Regional Engineering College, Rourkela (now NIT-R), this former Chief Engineer with Indian Railway, is running a spirited campaign having switched from BJD to the saffron party. He speaks to Deputy Resident Editor Siba Mohanty.
Last time, you won on a BJD ticket, this time you are fighting from BJP. How confident are you?
Even though I was an MP from the Opposition party, I could bring two railway projects - Jeypore-Malkangiri (130 km) and Jeypore-Nabarangpur (38 km) - to this region although those were not economically viable. The Centre sanctioned two projects which speaks of the Narendra Modi Government’s focus on development of this region. My dream is to extend the railway project from Malkangiri to Bhadrachalam.
I think I have been able to create a little bit of space in everyone’s heart in my constituency.
In the last five years, development has been the focus of the Modi Government on all fronts - be it electrification, health, road, rural housing or Central Assistance. A whopping 2,500 km road was completed in the last five years in Nabarangpur Parliamentary constituency alone.
There were no Government colleges in Malkangiri but two model degree colleges were set up with Central Assistance. A super-specialty hospital was set up at Malkangiri and another is planned in Nabarangpur.
You had such good performance as an MP but why do you think you were ignored by BJD this time?
I believe some people in BJD did not want development in Koraput-Nabarangpur region. They did not want a strong tribal leader emerging from this belt.
Naveen Patnaik is a nice gentleman but does not involve in nitty gritty which is why people surrounding him are taking advantage of the situation politically and otherwise too. The candidate selection was a point in case as people like Subash Gond - dropped last time - got a ticket but someone like Manas Madkami was ignored. Sadashiva Pradhani, nominated from Nabarangpur Assembly seat, is not known to people at all. How did he get the nomination?
Are you saying that the observers appointed by BJD were responsible for this?
Precisely. They manipulated the survey and intelligence reports and forced my resignation. They did not want efficient MPs and MLAs from the region. This is why when a review was made, many who had been ignored got tickets later.
Do you think South Odisha, known to be once a Congress bastion before BJD made inroads, will see Modi Magic?
Absolutely. People of my constituency want Prime Minister Narendra Modi back and Balabhadra Majhi is only a small means to that. Earlier, voters were illiterate and knew nothing beyond Congress and Indira Gandhi. The young and literate voters are now politically aware and want development. The Congress fortress is demolished. South Odisha politics is now leadership and development-based.
Do you think the Bengali votes will be the key?
Their number would be above 1.3 lakh and are very significant since they vote on the basis of issues and en masse. I hope they will vote for BJP en masse.
Do you think KALIA scheme of Odisha Government and neighbouring Chhattisgarh’s loan waiver scheme will work?
KALIA has benefited a handful and people now know the State Government has run out of funds to operate it. Similarly, the loan waiver scheme helps only a limited number of farmers. I don’t see any impact.
BJP candidate Nabarangpur Lok Sabha